David Dorf, Vice President, Infor Retail
In today’s incredibly competitive fashion industry, it’s important for retailers to strategically design their value chain to guarantee faster results and improved efficiency.
The retailer is no longer the end point of your value chain, where the product meets the consumer. Today, with omni-channel shopping, customers expect to shop, compare, purchase, and consume on their own terms, on their own schedule, through a variety of channels, and on a variety of devices.
For your omni-channel marketing efforts and value chain to be in sync, you must move toward new business models that are far more collaborative, consumer driven, responsive, and quick. Your value chain must be designed strategically so you can get closer to your customers and quickly deliver on their needs. All of your value chain partners must work together to get the right products to where consumers want them—as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1. Stand out from the competition
The value chain is the foundation of your business. Its creation and execution drive the performance of your design, sourcing, manufacturing, inventory allocation, warehousing, and distribution operations.
As shopping becomes more of a digital experience that’s informed by your marketing efforts, all parties along your value chain need access to the same information across every interaction touch point – from browsing and shopping online or off, to making a purchase at a retail outlet, web storefront, or vending machine, to the delivery of goods. To make this process less daunting, you should look at what your marketing department has done to segment customers, create personas, and customize experiences. These best practices can make it easier to harness the Big Data about your customers that drives the omni-channel.
2. Meet demand and satisfy your customers
By creating a more collaborative value chain network that uses the real-time information you gain from the omni-channel and information technology, you can anticipate the desires of today’s shoppers and make more cost-effective decisions about trends, demand, and your inventory. The idea is to get to know your customers, segment them, consolidate the data you gain, and share relevant data with relevant parties throughout your value chain. The kind of information that is relevant to your value chain varies from business to business. But some examples could include: demographics, transactional behavior, preferred channels, campaign history, model scores, and date-relative filters.
With this data, you can create customized, consistent experiences for your customers while preparing your value chain—and infrastructure—to deliver the goods. For example, you could match inventory supply with demand and create a common inventory system across all of the channels
you monitor. Customers who respond better to email than social media or direct mail should be handled differently—perhaps by reaching out to them with more email touch points. With this information being collected and shared across all of your relevant teams and value chain partners, you can deliver an improved customer experience in the fewest number of steps.
3. Deliver the right inventory to the right channels
To supply all of the right channels with the right inventory, you must look beyond the traditional notions of fulfillment. Make-to-stock or make-to-forecast won’t cut it when consumers want so much more. To make your inventory flexible, you need to factor in your fulfillment rates, service levels, delivery costs, and more.
All parties along your value chain need access to relevant information across all of your interaction touch points, from print catalog, to web, to order entry screen, to manufacturing and distribution center—and even social media. Capturing and analyzing high volumes of data in near real-time is vital.
4. Get closer to the customer
The customer determines what you’re doing, not the other way around. By listening to the customer—getting closer to them—you can create better strategies for meeting their needs. One strategy is to start with common items for the line: fabrics and trim elements. Design a style around them and put it out there. Your customers can lead you to better designs. With your marketing department using technology to drive, capture, and analyze social media feedback and a flexible value chain, you can adjust your manufacturing processes in real-time to satisfy new demands—and get closer to the consumer. Using emerging technologies, you can shorten the time to the consumer, reduce the number of physical samples, and save on your costs.
5. Act on customer desires with Big Data
Business intelligence and analytics tools can help you sort the data you create so it’s more easily digestible—across your entire operation and value chain. With advanced business intelligence and analytics, you can spot trends and patterns that can help you prepare your inventory and better anticipate customer desires.
To start, create a central data repository for your entire organization to organize all of the Big Data you’re gathering. Track, collect, and analyze the data generated between your design teams, among product developers and sourcing managers, suppliers and buyers. You should also create a growing library of reusable designs, together with the specifications, BOMs, sourcing, costing, and construction details to minimize the lead time for introducing variations on a style or bringing an extra contractor up to speed when you need added capacity.
When you’re properly analyzing Big Data and using that information to supply the right channels with the right merchandise all along your value chain, you can consistently put the product in the hands of the consumer at the location and point in time they want to buy, with the appropriate fulfillment options.
6. Build a stronger network
Success in the omni-channel environment requires an interconnected value chain network, operating on one common platform. In your new fashion value chain network, you’ll be able to exchange information in near real-time, so you can prepare for the needs of physical retail stores, as well as the diversity of online and other sales channels. The goal is to align everything from your marketing efforts through to manufacturing into one consistent experience. With the right tools, you can plan, execute, measure, and analyze your inventory allocation needs effectively throughout the omni-channel environment.
You want to be able to identify what causes a certain type of customer to act—whether that action is positive or negative—and where they’re most likely to act: shopping online or off or via social media recommendations, email campaigns, and so on. When the customer is ready to make a purchase, your value chain needs to be ready to deliver—no matter where or when that action is triggered.